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BASF Blast Kills 2, Injures More

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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German authorities are investigating the cause of an explosion at a BASF chemical plant that killed two and severely injured at least six. One person remains missing after the incident, according to multiple sources.

The blast occurred at about 11:30 a.m. local time Monday (Oct. 17) in a pipeline at the company’s facility in Ludwigshafen, where BASF is headquartered, Germany's public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

Ludwigshafen fire service chief Peter Friedrich told media at a Tuesday briefing that fire services had not yet been able to access the accident site, as they needed to allow the pipes to cool first.

Additionally, "There's still a thick layer of foam on the pipeline where the explosion happened," Friedrich said.

"We deeply regret that employees died and several people were injured. Our sympathy is with the affected people and their families," facility chief Uwe Liebelt, said in a statement, according to a Reuters report.

Authorities have ruled out terrorism as a factor in the blast.

Fire Preceded Explosion

The explosion reportedly involved a supply line connecting a river harbor site where flammable liquids and liquid gas are unloaded and a tank storage area.

BASF later confirmed that the burning substances included ethylene (used in producing solvents and insulation) and propylene (used in producing car paint and adhesives).

According to Liebelt, a fire preceded the explosion, which occurred while responding fire crews were on site, The New York Times reported

"How the explosion happened is not clear at the moment," Liebelt told reporters.

According to reports, repair work was being performed on the pipeline at the time.

Additional fires and explosions were said to have followed the initial blast. The blaze reportedly took more than 12 hours to put out.

Thick smoke from the fire led officials to ask the town’s residents to remain indoors and keep their windows closed. Although some locals complained of respiratory irritation, BASF indicated that measurements taken in the area showed no increased risk from toxic fumes.

2 Dead, Nearly 2 Dozen Injured

Although the identities of the victims have not been released as of Tuesday afternoon, The Wall Street Journal reported that the deaths involved two firefighters.

Likewise, the missing person is believed to be a member of fire services and is thought to be in the harbor; however, the area is still considered to be too dangerous for divers to access the water. Reports indicate that there is still some gas leakage in the area.

Authorities indicated that six individuals are in intensive care, and another 17 had suffered minor injuries in the incident.

Far-Reaching Impact

Following the explosion, BASF shut down 14 of its production facilities, both as a safety measure and because the incident interrupted the delivery of raw materials, sources said.

According to Bloomberg, some of the company’s production units could remain shut down for an extended period while investigations are underway, which is expected to impact sales and earnings.

“The full impact is so far hard to quantify,” Baader Bank analyst Markus Mayer said in a note to clients. Gathering evidence is normally “spread over several weeks and can be prolonged to over a quarter.”

BASF itself has declined to comment on the potential financial impact of the event, saying in a statement it is “devastated” by the loss of life and injuries.

Located about 50 miles south of Frankfurt and situated on the Rhine, the Ludwigshafen facility is said to be the world’s largest chemical complex, and employs a staff of 39,000.

Though unrelated, two hours earlier that day, four people were injured in a gas explosion at BASF’s Lampertheim site, a plant that makes additives for plastics, Reuters noted.


Tagged categories: BASF; Coatings raw materials manufacturers; Explosions; Fatalities; Fire; Health and safety; Pipelines; Polypropylene; Raw materials; Safety

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